Bishops found to be "negligent" when dealing with cases of sexual abuse will be investigated and could be removed from office, a papal decree said on Saturday.
Pope Francis has pledged zero tolerance for anyone in the church who abuses children and likened such abuse to a "satanic mass". In 2014 he established a Vatican commission intended to set best practices to root out abuse in parishes.
With the decree, he puts into action what he promised last year when he approved a Vatican tribunal to judge bishops accused of covering up or failing to prevent abuse of minors.
Victims' groups have repeatedly demanded that the Catholic Church do more to make bishops accountable for abuse in their dioceses, even if they were not directly responsible for it.